The eight best concerts in Denver this week
Andrew Bird plays Chautauqua this week.
There's plenty to keep you busy this week. James Taylor brings his musical featherbed to Red Rocks for a couple nights, and Nas and Flying Lotus will headline Feed the Rocks right after that.
The outdoor activities continue with the kickoff of both Sonic Bloom and Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Note that this roundup doesn't include weekend shows, so despite the fact that both festivals do run into Friday and Saturday, we're telling you about them now because they start before then. Wouldn't want you to think we were forgetting anything...
The Soiled Dove Underground : 8:00 p.m. June 16
After leaving the Waterboys nearly three decades ago, Karl Wallinger started World Party. The act found some early notoriety with its 1987 debut, Private Revolution, partly fueled by the success of its title track and "Ship of Fools." Since then, Wallinger and company have released four other studio discs as well as 2012's Arkeology, rare studio cuts, live sessions, concert recordings, radio interviews, covers, demos and B-sides.
Chautauqua Community House : 7:30 p.m. June 19
Andrew Bird was one of the earlier pioneers of modern chamber pop. Growing up in Chicago, Bird -- a classical violinist in training at age four -- worked with alterna-swing band Squirrel Nut Zippers before firmly establishing a name for himself as a songwriter far beyond the Windy City with the release of his 1997 album Thrills. Since then, Bird has slowly but steadily explored various musical styles and eras, adopting ideas and creating a body of work that's had a clear impact on anyone who makes pop music that fuses classical instruments and older musical styles with a modern sensibility.
The Paramount Theatre : 8:00 p.m. June 18
The success of Maxwell's "Pretty Wings" and the rest of his 2009 comeback, BLACKsummers'night, was refreshing in that modern R&B is short on the subtlety that defined the genre in the '90s. At that time, Maxwell established himself among neo-soul's meticulous craftsmen, working with collaborators of Marvin Gaye and Sade to realize high-thread-count arrangements that functioned like ambient music on his 1996 debut, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite. He grew increasingly lively over his next two, 1998's Embrya and 2001's Now. Either way, his voice, a friendly-not-flashy croon, has always been at the fore. Now 41 and a perennial favorite of the Grammy committee, Maxwell has tamed his hair, but the poise hasn't diminished.
Larimer Lounge : 9:00 p.m. June 18
Long before doing so became a well-worn trend, Allah-Las perfected the art of sounding like some long-lost surf-psych-garage band from the late '60s. The group's members worked at Amoeba Records in Los Angeles by day and did their practicing in a basement by the beach, where they spent a few years honing their jangling, spare melodies and crafting soulfully expansive songs. Clearly inspired in part by Love's output, their music doesn't embody the sunny, laid-back positivity that is the cliché of California's sound and its culture. Although there's an easy breeziness to the tunes, there's also an unmistakable undertone of melancholy and introspection that sets Allah-Las apart from many of its peers and offsets any sun-drenched sensibilities.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre : 8:00 p.m. June 17; 8:00 p.m. June 18
James Taylor is like a warm blanket and a cold night, or conversely, the cold side of the pillow on a warm night. It's hard to quantify Taylor's tones to someone who isn't a believer, but we do know that you would be hard-pressed to find an artist more deserving of the classic easy-listening definition. Take his 1970 album Sweet Baby James for another spin, and you will find him not that far from today's modern singer-songwriters like Iron & Wine's Sam Beam, William Fitzsimmons, or My Morning Jacket's Jim James in his quieter moments. Sure, when the '80s hit, Taylor got mega-saccharine, and yeah, he began to look like your college biology professor, but that voice remained, even when the yuppies took to using his jams to soundtrack yacht trips and brunches on the deck. If you have a hard time getting your older kids to go with you to this show, just remind them that Taylor was the chill bald dude singing to Homer Simpson when he was an astronaut in space.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre : 5:00 p.m. June 19
Although considered by many to be a hip-hop producer, Steven Ellison has displayed musical and artistic ambitions that are clearly not confined to a narrow range of classification. Drawing inspiration from the late hip-hop genius J Dilla, Ellison, under the moniker Flying Lotus, has likewise brought considerable imagination and a creatively ambitious spirit to his own compositions, collaborations and remixes. When you listen to a Flying Lotus album, it's like you're hearing music that isn't trying to fit into a genre -- but at the same time, you don't sense a conscious effort to be musically subversive. The character, the myths, the stories and the energy of Los Angeles are infused into Ellison's music, much like New York is a kind of indispensable character and presence in Woody Allen films. Flying Lotus and Nas headline Feed the Rock with Schoolboy Q, Turner Jackson and Lily Fangz also on the bill.
Telluride Town Park : 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 a.m. June 19; 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 a.m. June 20; 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 a.m. June 21; 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 a.m. June 22
anniversary this weekend, with a lineup that includes Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, Ray LaMontagne and more. To commemorate the milestone, the organization that puts on the festival, Planet Bluegrass, is releasing a book called Telluride Bluegrass Festival: 40 Years of Festivation. Featured in its 216 pages is an extensive collection of photos from throughout the event's history, as well as a series of essays by past performers like Chris Thile of Nickel Creek, Béla Fleck, Emmylou Harris and Tim O'Brien. The whole thing is held together by missives from Telluride's master of ceremonies from approximately 1978 to 2006, Dan Sadowsky, known to his friends and the "festivarians" as Pastor Mustard.
American Safari Ranch : June 19; June 20; June 21; June 22
Sonic Bloom, the mountain music and arts festival that has made its home at Shadows Ranch in Georgetown, Colorado, for the past few years, will be held this year at American Safari Ranch in South Park, Colorado. The festival has continued to step up its game every year and this year's installment boasts a stellar line-up of EDM heavies like Tipper, EOTO, Shpongle, Michal Menert Big Band, the Polish Ambassador, OTT and more.
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